Let’s start out by bringing up fellow At The Hive member Chris Barnewell’s recent story on poor fourth quarter defense after last week’s loss to the Detroit Defense. Rightfully so, Chris highlights the defensive woes in late-game situations, when in fact, the offense has still managed to be above average.
If you look at the Charlotte Hornets’ recent games, large leads have often been gained but not always maintained (hope you enjoyed that rhyme). In the loss to the Toronto Raptors before the All-Star break, the Hornets possessed a 17-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. Although there were offensive woes, the Hornets were a mess defensively as well. After giving up a combined 27 points throughout the second and third quarters, the Hornets surrendered 32 in the last frame and lost.
Similarly, in the first game back from the break, the Hornets blew an 18-point lead to the Pistons and eventually lost in overtime where they were an even bigger mess than in regulation’s final minutes.
As an additional tidbit, when leading after three quarters, the Hornets have lost four of the last six such games. Three of those four losses involved double digit leads heading into the fourth.
However, tonight was different.
Entering the fourth quarter, the Hornets trailed by two, 82-80. They won 109-104.
It was the first time since January 4 against the Oklahoma City Thunder where the Hornets won a game in which they trailed heading into the fourth quarter. With a few blowouts sprinkled in, the Hornets had failed to do so in their last 14 attempts.
But again, saw a change in the trend. Even with two prayer-like 3-point makes by D’Angelo Russell in the last minute to close the gap, the Hornets only allowed 22 points in the final 12 minutes.
Down 96-93 with 3:31 remaining, the Hornets went on a pivotal 10-2 run over the next minute and ten seconds of gameplay.
Over that stretch, each opportunity the Los Angeles Lakers had was made difficult by the defense. Russell on two different possessions was forced to take difficult shots. On the first, Walker did a great job of denying Russell the ball until he was well beyond the perimeter. Then, on the following pick and roll, Williams cut off the lane and Russell ended up forcing a backwards leaning shot.
On Russell’s second possession a minute later, Frank Kaminsky maintained his stance in the lane as a driving Russell got a step ahead of Walker. Kaminsky simply stayed the course and put his arms straight up, creating a difficult angle for Russell to bank in a layup.
Then, perhaps the biggest defensive play made by Nicolas Batum all season came as he denied Jordan Clarkson at the rim:
I could watch that on a continuous loop all day.
During the last 1:30, the Hornets also grabbed two vital offensive rebounds to use up additional clock and eventually extend their lead. On a missed 3-point field goal by Marvin Williams, Kaminsky grabbed the offensive board that lead to another long-range attempt from Williams, only this time it sank. On the following offensive possession, Batum snagged one as well, leading to the Lakers fouling due to a lack of time remaining.
To sum it all up, it was a very clean fourth quarter effort. Nothing flashy, just good basketball. The Hornets only fouled twice too, meaning the Lakers never entered the bonus. Even though it came against a meddling opponent, from a confidence standpoint, it should do wonders.
Hear Coach Steve Clifford’s instant post-game reactions:
After failing to finish in the clutch on Monday night in the same arena against the Los Angeles Clippers, the Hornets got a much needed win before heading to Phoenix to face the Suns. It’ll be a chance to move to 3-2 on the current road trip.